Madison Bumgarner's masterpiece Sunday against the Royals in the World Series was one of the best -- if not the best -- pitching performances in my lifetime when all variables are considered. Yes, that includes the 127 no-hitters and 15 perfect games thrown since Houston's Don Wilson threw a no-no over Atlanta on June 18, 1967 -- 10 days before I was born.
Bumgarner's gem for the Giants in Game Five was everything right about fundamental pitching. He worked both sides of the plate, changed speeds, pitched certain batters backward (throwing breaking balls early in the count), had movement on his cut fastball, used his deadly slider and was in total command all night. The Royals were lost long before they lost.
Added up: four hitter with eight strikeouts and no walks in a 5-0 shutout that was tight -- in a series that was tied -- until the Giants scored three runs in the eighth inning. He retired 10 straight batters at one point, and he threw three perfect innings to end the game. The big lefty became the first pitcher in history to throw a shutout with eight strikeouts and no walks.
Man, it was fun to watch.
Bumgarner pitched 21 2/3 scoreless innings in the World Series before giving up a home run to Salvidor Perez in Game One. For his career, he has a 4-0 record with a 0.29 ERA in the Fall Classic, the lowest in history for pitchers with at least 25 innings. He had a stoic expression on his face from the first inning to the last while throwing 117 pitches.
Fans who learn the game from watching ESPN highlights are led to believe the best pitchers throw 100 mph or accumulate the most strikeouts or own the best record. They forget that the best pitching performances are manufactured between the ears, particularly in big games. He was economical and dominant with his long delivery. He pitched like he owned the place because he did.
In this look-at-me era, he shrugged his shoulders after the game, suggested his World Series success was a product of luck and directed credit toward his teammates. It made him even more worth watching.